Ir-Rabat's Church dedicated to St. Publius

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Ir-Rabat's Church dedicated to St. Publius

The small church dedicated to St Publius is annexed to the Rabat parish church of St. Paul and stands on a grotto, where according to tradition, St. Paul resided during his stay in Malta. The church owes its erection to Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt (1601 – 1622) and to Fra Giovanni Beneguas da Cordova.1 In 1726 it was enlarged and remodeled by architect Salvu Borg (1662-1733)2and it was solemnly consecrated on the 1st July 1731 by Mons. Alpheran and the anniversary of this event is celebrated every second Sunday of July.3

This church boasts a titular painting by Mattia Preti (1613-1699) showing The Virgin and Child with Ss. John the Baptist and Publius.4

The titular was commissioned by the Order for St. John as can be observed by the eight-pointed cross clutched by the Infant.

The two lateral paintings situated in the choir area, depicting scenes from the life of St. Publius are by Enrico Regnaud (1692-1764). These illustrate St Publius Preaching and St. Publius in the lions’ den. The latter is signed and dated HRF 1730, [Henrico Regnaud Fecit].5 Both paintings occupy a large and horizontal canvas, ideal for depicting narrative for history paintings. These two lateral canvases have been restored in 2009.6

Author: Melanie Farrugia

1 Fra Giovanni Benegnas di Cordova, allorquando, venuto in quest’isola verso il 1600, e, vestito d’abito di romito e scalzo, erasi portato ad abitare in questa santa grotta. Questi, per promuovere vieppiu la divozione de’ fedeli verso questa grotta, ottenne da Paolo V diversi privilegi ed indulgenze a favore di essa. ... Il pio Beneguas diede ancora principio alla fabbrica di una cappella sulla grotta, la quale venne da lui dedicata a san Pubblio, nostro primo vescovo... in Ferris, A., La Descrizione Storica delle chiese di Malta e Gozo, 1866, Malta, pg. 106-107
2 Thake, C., & Hughes, Q., Malta: The Baroque Island, Malta, 2003
3 Ferres, A., La Descrizione Storica delle chiese di Malta e Gozo, 1866, Malta, pg. 108
4 Sciberras, K., Baroque Painting in Malta, Malta, 2009, pg. 156
5 Farrugia, M., A corpus of eighteenth century choir lateral paintings in Malta, 2010, unpublished BA (Hons) Thesis, University of Malta, pg. 19-22
6 ibid